Damala – Kokhta Fortress – Shoreti Monastery – Tsitelitsikhe Fortress – Gharta Church – Ota

About

Route Length: 31,6 km.
Route Duration: 12 hrs. 40 min.
Min./Max. Height: 1321/2189 m.
Total Ascent/Descent: 2188/2226 m.
Route Type: Connecting
Route category of complexity: Moderate

The route starts at the center of the village Damala, near a spring, and follows the Damala – Kokhta Fortress – Shoreti Monasteri – Ota trail until it reaches the crossroad, just after crossing the Otistskali river. One road heads to the Tsitelitsikhe Fortress, while the second road turns right towards the Shoreti Monastery. Visitors coming from Kokhta Fortress can join the route here. The itinerary follows the road towards the Tsitelitsikhe Fortress. The dirt road flattened by forestry vehicles goes along the Otis Tskali valley until the silhouette of a red stone fortress appears which seems to be hanging on a steep edge of the mountain, shielded with dark coniferous woodland.

The road gradually descends and reaches the Otistskali River, follows it downstream, and soon reaches the point of intersection. You need special equipment to cross the river in springs, or you can simply take off your hiking boots, step into cold water barefoot and get to the other bank. The road enters the spruce forest, in about 300 meters turns left and follows a mountain trail leading the travelers directly to the fortress. The imposing, firmly built fort stones have reddish hue as if they had been rusted with the time flow. According to a legend, it was because of these red stones that the fort got its name. Noteworthy is planning of the fortress, at first glance it has the trapezoid shape, and its walls are slowly narrowing from the bottom to the top, creating the impression that the fort is flying into the sky. A striking view from the stronghold overlooks the entire Otistskali valley. In order to protect visitors’ safety and not to damage the monument it is not recommended to climb fortress walls.

The itinerary goes back the same way, crosses Otistskali valley and follows it till the crossroads. From there the dirt road turns right, winds through broadleaved groves, crosses a vast field and light forest, goes uphill and eventually approaches a meadow, in the middle of which stands the church of Gharta, bounded by centuries-old trees and time flow. The two-nave basilica, built in the IX-X centuries, is half-ruined today, the walls of the temple are surrounded by plants, and unique fragments of steles, splendid ornaments and stone crosses are scattered in the yard. The vast forested field near the church is an excellent camping site.
An old spring is pouring near the Church, from that very spot the route continues towards village Ota, crosses a small forest, a plain field and enters the village. The itinerary bypasses village dwellings and ends up at the center of the village.


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